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Family of fire victim honored
Memorial helps buy firefighting equipment
fire department memorial pic
Great Bend Fire Chief Luke McCormick presents a plaque to Valerie Rziha-Ruiz and Lorie Weston during the City Council meeting Monday night. Rziha-Ruiz and Weston are the daughters of Lawrence Rziha who died in a September 2019 house fire, and a memorial donation in his honor helped purchase equipment for the Fire Department. Also pictured are members of the GBFD C Shift which responded to the fire. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

A memorial fund donation to the Great Bend Fire Department left in the name of a man who died in a September 2019 blaze will help the department when it responds to future fires, Fire Chief Luke McCormick said, addressing the City Council Monday night. 

On Sept. 26, 2019, the GBFD responded to a house fire at 2106 27th St. Upon arrival Captain Matthew Petersen and firefighter Brandon Werth entered the home where they found Lawrence Rziha still inside. 

“Unfortunately, Mr. Rziha passed away from his injuries sustained during the fire,” McCormick said. He was taken to Christi St. Francis, Wichita, where he died on Oct. 19.

The family of Rziha donated memorial funds in his honor to the GBFD to use towards equipment purchases. In December 2020, the department chose to add a second thermal imaging camera to its inventory. It used $1,545 from the memorial to assist with the overall purchase price of $5,800. 

“We use it to see through the smoke,” the chief said. The camera spots human heat signatures to aid in search-and-rescue operations.

McCormick recognized these relatives Monday night. He presented a plaque to Rziha’s daughters Valarie Rziha-Ruiz of Great Bend and Lorie Weston of Olathe.

In making the presentation, McCormick was joined by members of the GBFD C Shift which responded to the fire, including Petersen.

A Barton County resident for life, and a Great Bend resident, Rziha attended Odin schools and was a 1967 graduate of Odin High School. He was a refrigeration maintenance technician for Tyson. He was a sergeant in the United States Air Force.

lawrence rziha
Lawrence Rziha

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Learned of a memorial fund donation to the Fire Department.

• Approved revisions to the nepotism policy.

The city continues to have challenges filling staffing in certain areas. In an effort to help with staffing shortages, the policy was amended to allow for family members to be hired in certain circumstances, Human Resources Director Randy Keasling said.

• Approved the purchase of replacement docks at Veterans and Stone lakes from EZ Docks of Bismarck, N.D., for a total cost of $34,299.20.

The docks were last rebuilt in 1996 and around 1999, respectively. The floats were reused at that time with the wood being replaced. Since then, both have continued to age, and need total replacement, said Public Lands Director Scott Keeler. 

Staff researched and compared the cost to rebuild both docks verse purchasing from a manufacturer. EZ Docks were the most cost-effective meeting ADA Standards and providing the best warranty. In 2020, the City transferred at year end $50,000 for park maintenance.

• Ratified two change orders for the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip rebuilding project for Suchy Construction in the amount of $27,997.40. 

Contractors uncovered a large area of saturated base soils that were too wet to provide a solid base on which to pour the new concrete, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. The soils with time would have dried naturally. However, in order to prevent lengthy project delays, they chose to authorize contractors to incorporate fly ash into the soils to artificially dry it and make it a solid base for construction. 

The cost of the additional material and labor is $19,472.40. Additionally, they made the decision to replace an additional 18 feet of concrete approach to lessen the degree of slope when transitioning from concrete approach to the actual dragstrip. The ground clearance on race cars is so minute that too drastic of a slope change can cause them to bottom out and damage the undersides of the vehicles.

 • Approved a lease agreement with Jason Ward to operate the concession at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The lease fee is 10% of the gross receipts and the contract runs through Dec. 31.

• Heard an update from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He focused on ongoing city projects, as well as reports residents received in the mail regarding water quality test concerns.

• Approved abatements at: 1807 Stone, accumulation trash/refuse, Alvin and Gloria Farris; 523 Morphy, accumulation trash/refuse, Tomas Alvarado; 5818 Hemlock, accumulation trash/refuse, Hernan Llanas-Bernal; 709 3rd, accumulation trash/refuse, Jose Alfredo Garcia; 5943 Birchwood, accumulation trash/refuse, Eugene Mater; 1203 2nd, accumulation trash/refuse, Manuel Guerra; 317 Walnut, accumulation trash/refuse, Claudia Ivonne and Molina Contreras; 1001 8th, accumulation trash/refuse, Candelario and Ella Rubio; 1015 8th, accumulation trash/refuse, Luis Marrero; 1102 Hubbard, accumulation trash/refuse, McCord Property Management LLC.; 1110 Hubbard, accumulation trash/refuse, Moses Properties LLC.; 1423 11th, accumulation trash/refuse, Amanda Ritchie and William Davis; 1206 Frey, accumulation trash/refuse, Bryan Clawson; 100 Walnut, accumulation trash/refuse, James Hsiao; 1207 Lincoln, accumulation trash/refuse, Carol Martin; 1416 9th, accumulation trash/refuse, MGM Properties LLC.; 908 Elm, accumulation trash/refuse, Leonardo Cortez and Elizabeth Rocha; 1203 Madison, accumulation trash/refuse, Dorsha Ratledge; 1013 Jefferson, accumulation trash/refuse, James and Joyce Anschutz; 1311 Jefferson, accumulation trash/refuse, Mark Schnoebelen and Diane Ingraham Revocable Living Trust; 1024 Jefferson, accumulation trash/refuse, Rose Meyeres; 1202 Adams, accumulation trash/refuse, Moses Properties LLC.; 319 Kiowa, accumulation trash/refuse, Ana Zuniga; 313 Kiowa, accumulation trash/refuse, Ana Zuniga; 14 3rd, accumulation trash/refuse, Sandra Contreras and Jose Barrera; 306 Becker Ct., accumulation trash/refuse, Dustin Ellis; 441 Evergreen, accumulation trash/refuse, Cesar and Anna Zubia; 1308 Morphy, accumulation trash/refuse, Stacey Farris; 1210 Morton, accumulation trash/refuse, James Henry Dandy; 2215 Madison, accumulation trash/refuse, Tommy Noblitt; 1520 Hubbard, motor vehicle nuisance, Howard and Catherine Johnson; 2720 20th, motor vehicle nuisance, Jose and Adriana Valdovinos; 1221 Wilson, motor vehicle nuisance, James and Rena Mayhan; 2532 11th, accumulation trash/ refuse, Jesus and Maria Ramirez ; 117 Maple, motor vehicle nuisance, Baudilio Hernandez; 1437 2nd, motor vehicle nuisance, Sean and Patricia Mix; and 2312 8th, motor vehicle nuisance, Don Short.